Staveley mum who drowned in river may have ‘accidentally fell into water’, inquest hears

Samantha Lance.
Samantha Lance.

A coroner has concluded that there is no clear evidence to suggest that a much-loved mum who drowned in the River Rother at Staveley tried to take her own life.

The body of Samantha Carol Jane Lance, 41, of Inkersall Road, Staveley, was found on the afternoon of June 12, 2018, by a passer-by.

Samantha pictured with her daughter, Chelsea-Jade.

Samantha pictured with her daughter, Chelsea-Jade.

A post-mortem found the mum-of-five had a high level of alcohol and a mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs in her system.

At an inquest into her death on Friday in Chesterfield, coroner Peter Nieto concluded that he could not be certain that Ms Lance deliberately entered the water to take her own life.

Recording an open conclusion, Mr Nieto, said: “I am unable to specify an exact reason as to how Samantha came by her death.

“In order for a coroner to return a verdict of suicide there are two points to consider. One is that the person who died took a deliberate act - I cannot say that Samantha deliberately placed herself in the water - nobody saw Samantha go into the water. Secondly, even if I thought it was a deliberate act I cannot say on the balance of probabilities that Samantha had the intention to take her own life because there was no note. It seems to me that an open conclusion is the most appropriate.”

Samantha and her wife Debbie Jagger.

Samantha and her wife Debbie Jagger.

He added: “There is a realistic possibility that she accidentally fell in the water.”

The court heard that Ms Lance was originally from Norwich and was unemployed at the time of her death.

She had a history of mental health and alcohol problems and had borderline personality disorder (BPD).

On June 11, 2018, the day before she was found, Ms Lance left her flat, bought a bottle of vodka and went down to the river.

While she was there she exchanged some texts and calls with her ex-partner, Mervyn Cummings, who were still good friends despite separating around 2011. They had a son together.

Ms Lance later went on to marry her wife Debbie Jagger in 2016.

A statement read out on behalf of Mr Cummings explained how Ms Lance had been distressed and intoxicated during the phone calls and texts. She declined his offer to come and pick her up and she said that she was just going to ‘chill’ by the river.

Ms Lance gave no indication to Mr Cummings that she intended to take her own life.

The last text message between the pair was at 9.06pm.

Ms Lance’s body was found the next day by a passer-by called Darren Allen.

She was pronounced dead at 3.05pm.

There were no injuries and no suspicious circumstances.

PC Paul Collins, who was the first officer on the scene, said: “I do not think we will ever know what was in her mind at that time. All I can say is that when she left the flat I do not believe that she had any intention of ending her own life.

“I can’t give one piece of evidence that said she intended to take her own life that evening.”

He added: “When she was up she was a fabulous and the best person to be with but when she got down she did hit some rock bottoms in her life.”

The medical cause of death was recorded as drowning with contributory factors of alcohol, a mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs and mental health problems.

Mr Nieto recorded an open conclusion.

Speaking to the Derbyshire Times back in June, her family described her as ‘loving’ and ‘bubbly’ person who will be missed by everyone.